Oceans, rain, cascading waterfalls: countless poems derive their inspiration from the important liquid on which our emotional, physical and spiritual operations depend. Controlled addition of fluorides to the public water supply helps to keep the enamel of our teeth from wearing down. It prevents gum disease and tooth decay, the latter of which is extremely expensive to treat. Despite its benefits, such public action was initially controversial, as opponents deemed it a subversive Communist act. Fluoride opponents point to evidence that fluoride may cause tooth fluorosis in children and brittle bones in the elderly. As a result, several European countries have eliminated the additive.
Lead, sewage, pathogens, bacteria, animal waste and heavy metals regularly contaminate drinking water, so several filtration and purification methods are enforced by the government in order to reduce the presence of harmful contaminants in public water. Filtration reduces toxins by 90-99%. Reverse osmosis is the most effective method, though there is certainly no such thing as 100% pure water.
This applies to bottled water as well. Spring water, seltzer, mineral and sparkling contain chemicals and plastic leached from the bottle. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, there is no evidence that bottled water is any safer for consumption than tap water. In fact, 25% of bottled water is nothing but normal tap water.
So what’s with the illusion that bottled water comes from mountainous pristine springs? As a child, I watched my brothers go through several plastic bottles a day, even though we had a home filtration system. Whether they were sitting in front of the television or driving their SUV’s, it broke my heart to see how wasteful convenience could actually be.
Half-a billion people suffer diseases caused by water contamination. Tap water contamination is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency according to the terms of the 1994 Safe Water Drinking Act. The EPA regularly draws up Contaminant Candidate Lists (CCL’s), which provide for testing and regulation. No such laws govern bottled water contaminants. According to the International Bottled Water Association, bottled water sales have increased by 500% in the last decade—even more atrocious when we consider that a great deal of bottled water is just tap.
I do not mean to say that we should not filter our tap water. Doing so can reduce our intake of carcinogens, chlorine, lead, Methyl-tertiary-butyl-ether and VOC’s. A faucet filter over the kitchen sink or a home filtration system can guarantee the purity of the water with which we bathe, shower, wash our face, cook and drink. While Brita and Aquasana filters are very effective against lead, they are not as effective at removing TCE, benzene, MTBE toxins. Most importantly we should first educate on the cleanliness of our local, home tap then choose which filter best suits our specific circumstance.